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City council denies higher density zoning on Ninth Avenue

The Hendersonville City Council unanimously shot down a zoning request that would have allowed higher density housing on Ninth Avenue near Oak Street, siding with homeowners who opposed more intense development on the residential street.

The property on Ninth Avenue is currently zoned medium density residential and could accommodate one single-family house and a duplex or three single-family homes. The applicant, owner Peter Contrastano, requested the rezoning from medium- to high-density residential for three lots, each about a quarter acre, on the south side of Ninth Avenue across from Tebeau Drive. The higher density zoning would have allowed six dwellings including combinations of single-family housing, duplexes, triplexes or even a six-unit building.

Neighbors of the property said the change would bring traffic problems and endanger pedestrians.

"Ninth Avenue is a narrow very high-pedestrian street ... this connects the high school and the middle school for Hendersonville," said Bob Marrow, who lives in the area. "There is no pedestrian buffer, as you can see it's a narrow street, and any additional traffic disruption will both make traffic flow through here more difficult ... and increase pedestrian danger."

Though the council denied rezoning they recognized adding a small number of houses would not effect the bigger issue that arose from public comments: traffic.

Currently Ninth Avenue acts as a main road for three schools, — Hendersonville elementary, middle and high schools — three daycare centers and many single-family homes. Within a few years, additional traffic will come from the Joint Health Center, scheduled to open in two years.

"It is a racetrack every morning," said council member Jerry Smith, who has children at the middle school and teaches at HHS. "Anything that is done to increase the density is a mistake."

Last month the Planning Board recommended the rezoning in a split vote.

"Our lots are an average of 65 percent of the minimum size for an R-15 lot" under the current zoning designation, Contrastano said. "The frontage for each of our undersized lots is well below the 85-foot minimum for R-15. Since on-street parking is not allowed in front of the lots, a dwelling, parking for two cars (ideally covered for at least one), and a driveway need to be accommodated. It would be difficult to adhere to R-15 rules to fit in all required elements. The need to remove essentially all of the wooded features of the lots also would be the result."

The decision Thursday night was the second time a city board thwarted a rezoning request Contrastano said is needed to make a development doable. In May the Planning Board voted 7-1 to recommend denial of his request for rezoning the same three lots from medium density residential to medical institutional cultural, or MIC, zoning.

Later the council ended up on the topic again — and on the same street — when they took up police department recommendations on traffic flow at the schools.

Council unanimously approved traffic flow modifications on Orleans Avenue to address concerns from principals at Hendersonville Elementary and Hendersonville Middle schools.

A portion of Orleans Avenue between Thornton Place and Prince Drive will be one way during school operation hours, 7:20 – 8:25 a.m. and 2:40 – 3:25 p.m., to reduce potential head on collisions with drivers attempting to turn left off of Prince Drive and drivers going around traffic towards the middle school on Orleans Avenue.

The right lane on Orleans Avenue can only turn right towards the elementary school and the left hand lane can only go straight towards the middle school in the new traffic pattern. The center lane of Prince Drive approaching Orleans Avenue can only turn right.

The City of Hendersonville will paint a center line on Orleans Avenue in the affected area and place signage warning drivers of the traffic pattern change and the times that is effective costing the city $500. Additionally, the Hendersonville Police Department will post officers at the intersection until drivers are used to the new pattern.

But the problem remains: much of the traffic is going towards Ninth Avenue.

"Something needs to be done about this whole stinkin' area," said council member Steve Caraker. "This exacerbates the problem we heard in public hearing" on the rezoning request.